The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas showcases the current struggles and protests of African Americans through the perspective of a relatable teenage girl, Starr. While driving back from a party, Starr witnesses the death of her childhood friend Khalil after a Caucasian police officer pulls them over and shoots him. Khalil was unarmed. Starr struggles to use her voice to speak up for Khalil and his family amid the chaos that has become her life, facing problems with her friends and family. The writing pulls the reader into the story with its dynamic plot and complex characters. The Hate U Give, which has gotten a movie and will be in theaters this October, is an eye-opening must-read story about race and social class for teenagers and adults alike. – Sara Y. ’21
Doomsday Book, Connie Willis’s first Oxford Time Travel novel, is one of her most famous, featuring young time traveler-historian Kivrin on an expedition to medieval England. Shifting between modern and medieval times, the novel combines first person “journal” accounts and traditional narration. Like many of Willis’s novels, Doomsday Book is (in comparison) relatively slow moving for a good half of the book (though certainly not uninteresting) and speeds up to an incredibly moving ending. The book makes the horrors of the Black Death devastatingly real, and continuously questions the role of religion in our lives. While perhaps more interesting to those who have some background on the middle ages, I had little interest in medieval times but still found the book hauntingly captivating. I found myself pondering Doomsday Book for days after I had finished reading it.
This was the first time I read a work by Connie Willis. Blackout is, at its core, historical fiction, though laced with elements of sci-fi in the form of time travel. The premise of all of Willis’s time travel novels is that in the near future (2060) Oxford University historians will conduct their research by traveling back in time to their periods of study. In Blackout, several historians travel to England during World War II, disguising themselves in various locations including London during the Blitz, Dunkirk during the evacuation, and a countryside manor house. However, something has gone wrong with the historians’ return mechanism (called the drop), and our heroes are trapped. At first, I found Blackout to be immensely interesting, as the story exuded all the emotions and attitudes of WWII life and at times even made me feel slightly panicked. However, 500 pages of nearly the same phrase (“Where is the retrieval team? Why is my drop not working?”) began to get frustrating. I will be reading the sequel, which essentially is a direct continuation from the 1st book with hardly a transition at all, but only because I’m curious to find out how/if the characters return to 2060. In the end, I would recommend this book, as the story is extremely immersive, but don’t attempt it unless you’re ready to read 1000 pages of WWII historical fiction.
Something has to give in the life of young Theodore Decker, who, at the novel’s opening, has but one reliable companion: his mother, artistic and compassionate, reverent toward the Renaissance masters yet never condescending to her apartment’s two doormen. In one trick of Fate, this bulwark is ripped away, and Theodore finds a new anchor thrown into his arms: Carol Fabritius’ masterpiece painting, The Goldfinch. Throughout his turbulent life, from his troubled stay with sometime friend Andy Barbour, to thrilling (if alcohol-filled) teenage years alongside the passionate intellectual Boris Pavlikovsky, to evenings sealing sketchy deals on antique furniture in order to clear his associate’s debts, the painting remains the undercurrent of Theodore’s life. When the disparate storylines eventually converge, it is Fabritius’ Goldfinch that unifies them. Tartt’s artistic language enlivens the novel, from the smallest details of Sheraton furniture to the greatest messages about the art of life. She exposes the elusive art of living to one’s fullest and the beautifully bizarre twists that life reveals to those who explore it. While some critics might argue that this intricate work is nothing but a series of crude brushstrokes upon close inspection, The Goldfinch will no doubt strike a chord with anyone who appreciates the beauty and mystery of art.
Aveyard skillfully combines a dystopian society with the world of fantasy in Red Queen, which addresses segregation and the conflict between different social classes. In the genetically modified future, humans are divided into two castes: those with silver blood (Silvers), and those with red (Reds). Those with silver blood enjoy a wealthier lifestyle and magical abilities, while people with red blood work as peasants and slaves. Even so, Mare, a Red, discovers that she straddles the border between the Reds and Silvers, and she is forced to become a princess under the watchful eye of the despotic king and her newly betrothed, the prince. Her plans for a rebellion go unnoticed, but Mare also faces internal struggles within her lovestruck heart and in her decision to sacrifice hundreds of innocent people for the sake of her cause. Aveyard’s unique plot and her taut writing from Mare’s perspective build suspense until the end. However, the lack of description and detail may easily confuse the reader. Fans of fantasy, adventure and strong female leads would certainly enjoy Red Queen.
The tiny town of Fairfold teeters right on the border between the human and faerie worlds, and its inhabitants know it. On one side of this border are the local public high school, the general store, the partying teenagers, the clueless tourists; on the other side are vicious monsters made of twigs and dirt, goblins who bathe in human blood, and a horned prince lying dormant in the middle of the woods. Not your typical story-book creatures, these faeries, but, as long as they’re not provoked, they’re willing to live in a fragile balance with their human neighbors—until local teenager Hazel and her brother Ben, wishful monster hunters extraordinaire, upset that balance beyond repair. Holly Black’s masterful world-building is on display in the court of the faerie king (modeled off the legendary German Erlkönig) and on the ominous small-town streets of Fairfold, but the novel’s real creativity lies in the intersection between the two worlds. The border separating the humans and faeries, it becomes clear, is frighteningly porous, and the influence of faerie magic in Fairfold is stronger than its inhabitants would like to admit… Black never relinquishes nuance in her characters in favor of plot, and as a result the novel feels neither simplistic nor rushed. Here is YA fantasy at its best: a world that seems as real as, or realer than, our own.
With Sam no longer in charge, and the Council debating but not acting, Zil and his Human Crew are allowed to grow more extreme in their efforts against the freaks, and Caine moves in as he becomes more desperate to survive. Worst of all, Drake has survived, and so has the Darkness; it lingers in some minds, spreading rumors. Grant overcomes the challenge of matching the dynamics of a FAYZ-like society and the mentality of children to the characters’ thoughts, hopes, and dreams, and he excels at creating a storyline that comes together in a beautiful, intense climax. However, he often fails to explain each event and motive sufficiently, instead he relying on cheesy, artificially emotional explanations and overly stereotyped characters that I’d expect from an amateur author. Also, I feel that he tries to create an atmosphere of foreboding, but the foreshadowing and the predictability of the characters all too often give away the best twists in the plot. Therefore, I recommend Lies only to those searching for quick-paced, dystopian action but not necessarily good writing or deep characters and compelling ideas. – Kai A. ‘17
This book (available as an ebook through OverDrive!) will obsess you, so don’t read it when you have anything else important going on, like Finals… or breakfast. What would happen if zombies were real? How would world governments respond? Would they save us? Evacuate us? Lie to us? Kill us? How would people respond? Would we protect each another? Would we survive? World War Z is told as “an oral history of the Zombie War,” but really, it’s about people. Whereas the movie World War Z follows one character (portrayed by Brad Pitt) through the outbreak and rapid spread of the global zombie virus, the book takes place after the fact (12 years after the end of the war). Written as a series of interviews with survivors of the War. Each chapter is from a different person’s perspective on different stages of the Zombie outbreak, from a Chinese village doctor to an American profiteer selling fake anti-zombie pills. The temporal shift in the telling means that you know these people survived the War, so the book is engrossing without being unimaginably stressful (a plus if you’re not always a horror fan). World War Z is a must-read, especially for fans of dystopian disaster books like Daniel Wilson’s Robopocalypse, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, or Justin Cronin’s The Passage. – Mrs. Cranston, Harker librarian
In Robopocalypse (available as an ebook through OverDrive), humans have finally done it. By creating a super-intelligent robot named Archos, we have, in its words, “made mankind obsolete.” In one horrifying moment (Zero Hour), Archos turns our technology against us, using cars, smart-weapons, even cell phones as tools of the robot uprising. Told from alternating perspectives before and after Zero Hour, this fast-paced book describes how a few brave humans resist Archos’ quest to cleanse the world of humanity. Readers who like a little philosophy thrown in with their apocalypse will adore this book. Sure there are be-tentacled super-robots ripping open buildings to extract humans like sardines from a can, but there are also humanoid robots meditating on what it means to be “alive.” Robopocalypse’s oral history structure as well as the scale and pace of its global disaster will draw comparisons to World War Z. However, while World War Z’s protagonists had to outmaneuver zombies (gross yes, but relatively slow and definitely brain-dead), Robopocalypse’s characters must outsmart a vastly superior intelligence whose army is global and instantaneous and in your iPad! In fact, the challenge is so compelling and Archos so daunting that the resolution is a bit unconvincing…still there are more books in the series, so we’ll see what happens next! Overall, a great read. – Mrs. Cranston, Harker librarian